During his 10 years in New England, Vince Wilfork has pretty much been the model Patriot.
On the field he's excelled as a defensive tackle, first on the nose in the team's 3-4 and lately as a tackle in 4-3 fronts. He went to five Pro Bowls and was part of the team's last Super Bowl title during his rookie season in 2004.
Off the field he's be even more impressive. He and his wife, Bianca, have become part of the fabric of the community. He was the recipient of the Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award in 2010 and has done extensive charity work to raise money for diabetes research as well. He's been a mentor to children and his teammates, and last season he even accompanied the team on the road after he was injured in an effort to help from the sidelines.
Wilfork will be 33 in November and he's entering the final year of his contract, which will count as an $11.6 million hit against the salary cap. He's also coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon which limited him to just four games a year ago.
Given those factors the Patriots would reportedly like to lower the cap number and the sides have reportedly discussed ways to get that done. Evidently the talks did not go well because Wilfork recently reportedly requested that the team release him. While it is unknown if the Patriots offered him a restructured deal or asked him to take a pay cut, Wilfork appears ready to move on.
Our question this week – Should the Patriots release Vince Wilfork?
Normally we take sides in our weekly debates but given the information we currently have, Team PFW is in agreement on this one. As difficult as it is to swallow, we all believe the Patriots should release Wilfork rather than have him take up such a large piece of the cap.
Obviously there are negotiating factors we aren't privy to that could change our viewpoint. Pay cuts and restructures aren't the same thing, and if Wilfork is looking to add significant money beyond this year as part of a new deal, that also is different.
But overall, given his age and the fact that he's coming off a ruptured Achilles, it makes sense to let him go. The position of the run-stuffing defensive tackle, while still important, is not quite as vital as it was when he entered the league. A suitable replacement could be found for cheaper dollars, and while the team would lose a valued leader and pillar in the community, the on-field affects wouldn't be glaring.
So, that's our view, but obviously there's another side to this and many of you may feel that holding onto Wilfork is the right thing to do. He's certainly earned the right to return, and he remains a productive player even at his advanced age. Replacing quality people can sometimes be more difficult than replacing quality players, and in Wilfork's case the Patriots may need to do both.
It's certainly not a simple situation.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.